DESPITE drawing criticism for his plan to join the PBA as playing-coach of expansion team Kia Motors, boxing great Manny Pacquiao was hailed by no less than league commissioner Chito Salud who described him as someone who “embodies the highest standard of excellence and sportsmanship.”
“Of course, there’s the ‘wow’ factor, there’s the point of interest, the pulling power of Manny Pacquiao, but I want to emphasize that Manny is the embodiment of what the PBA is striving to stand for,” said Salud before mediamen inside a jampacked Salvatore Lounge of the Pacific Star Building in Makati.
“And what is that? The highest degree of excellence and sportsmanship with regard to fan and public interest.”
The amiable commissioner said he understands the concern of people over Pacquiao's foray into professional basketball, saying the fans do not want to see Pacquiao’s global image as a sport icon tarnished if he ends up a failure as a player-coach of Kia.
There are also fears that Pacquiao's Kia stint will only make a mockery of the pro league and its players.
But given Pacquiao’s well-established discipline in prizefighting, which he has dominated for the last decade by becoming the only eight-division world champion, Salud believes the fighting congressman from Saranggani is capable of handling his new job.
“There have been so many comments and so many concerns, regarding the possibility of Manny joining the PBA. And many of these concerns have been expressed, in my mind, to protect the interest genuinely of our national treasure, Manny Pacquiao,” explained Salud.
“But that is why nag-i-isang klaseng boksingero lang si Manny. Maraming magagaling at maraming matatapang diyan, and I don’t have to elaborate kung bakit hanggang ngayon pinakasikat pa ring boksingero si Manny because pinangangalagaan niya ang interest ng publiko, which the PBA wants to stand for at this time,” he added.
For his part, the 35-year-old reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion vowed to manage his time in order to fulfill his duties as a congressman, professional boxer and as PBA head coach.
“Time management lang yan, disiplina sa sarili, kaya nating i-handle lahat yan,” he said.
“Sa ngayon head coach ako, ang paglalaro di ko pa alam. Basta focus ko ngayon pagko-coach at kumuha ng magagaling na players at mag-organize para maging magaling na team,” added the Pacman.
Also present during the well-attended event was Jose Chavez Alvarez, chairman of Columbian Autocar Corp. which is the official distributor of Kia Motors in the Philippines.